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Pushing the Envelope: What will the biggest email marketing trends be?

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Following a recent client presentation on the latest innovations in email, I thought it worthwhile that I created the following blog to map out in a little more detail that key points of the presentation.

If we are honest no one really has an idea of where these trends will take us, as the frustration of platform capabilities continues to hamper innovation. However, if we take our current clients and look at some key outside influences we believe the following innovations will begin to drive email strategies and more importantly improve your customer's experiences in 2017 and beyond;

INTERACTIVE EMAILS

Much has been made of interactive emails, but even half way through 2017 we are still a long way from widespread adoption, even though simply adding a GIF can increase CTR by 26%. Rebelmail have a really simple definition of email interactivity:

AN ACTION TAKEN IN AN EMAIL THAT TRIGGERS AN EVENT WITHIN THE SAME EMAIL.

But what does interactive email mean and what form it can take?

Put simply email interactivity brings some of the interactions that customers normally undertake on the landing page/ website and pulls them into your email. By reducing these barriers to engagement, it gives clickers an even higher intent to potentially purchase.

So, what holds back adoption of these interactive elements? Quite simply the technical challenges around mass implementation. Primary reason being that interactivity isn’t supported by all email clients, including Mobile Outlook and Android but remember more than 65% of the average email sender’s subscribers will be able to experience interactive emails, so it may be worth a test. However, cost does become a factor in development as strong fallback emails will need to be created to properly serve those subscribers using less sophisticated email clients.

There are tracking and attribution challenges. As interactivity pulls from the landing page into the email, click through rates become less important and engagement of the actual email becomes more important. Through this we need to consider new metrics such as “unique” opens that are triggered by engaging with the interactive elements of the emails.

HTML5 VIDEO

After a slow adoption across email platforms since its launch, its only since Apple added support in iOS10 where more than 53% of emails are opened, we can finally begin to seriously consider its use in campaign delivery. However, as with interactive content a fallback for customers using email clients that don’t support HTML5 video is a necessity.

Talking to our clients about the prospect of interactive emails, it’s difficult not to see HTML5 video as just another a form of interactivity. But more importantly its easier for customers to understand and act on – promoting travel insurance, through displaying a beautiful beach with sea gently lapping and your likely to illicit an immediate response, whereas adding a hamburger menu might improve UX but have little impact on the CTR.

PERSONALISATION

Translating Big Data trends into actionable email insights and signals for marketers starts with breaking down silos and integrating data across multiple channels.

If we pool all the data and connect the dots which takes some effort — this is no small technological challenge considering the stresses involved in liaising with IT and data teams — brands can now build the most detailed views and insights of individual customers, and we’ve worked with clients in using a wide range of data to reinforce data points and ultimately inform campaign messaging.

We have seen particularly through Adobe and Pardot our clients embracing personalisation to drive large portions of the content within their emails. However, these platforms are not only cost prohibitive but are hugely time consuming when they are done right, and therefore it’s unlikely that we will see a huge and rapid migration to Big Data, more a steady stroll towards it over the coming years, as Big Data and its interpretation becomes more of the norm.

AUTOMATION

With the slow adoption and understanding of Big Data amongst many clients, this is unlikely to leap much beyond the current batch of triggered emails, like welcome and cart abandonment emails, with many of our clients already generating much of their email marketing revenue through automation without a true adoption of Big Data.

However, we’ve seen when mapping customer experiences and journeys that with only 5% of emails currently falling into this bracket, the opportunities are huge to improve customer engagement, driving onboarding and retention. As we have seen with direct mail clients need to focus time and resources on developing these automation strategies and assets.

OMNI-CHANNEL EXPERIENCES

Consumers now expect brands to recognise and engage with them across channels and deliver a consistent message wherever they are, not limited to email but direct mail, display ads, social media and all forms ot marketing communication.

The brands that can nail this in the coming years will be the ones customers migrate and engage, take the new Adobe Experience Cloud TV commercial and it gives a peak into what this world could look like, although this only scratches at the surface of what’s possible.

 

Single customer views that piece all these customer interactions together into a single view continue to be the holy grail of marketeers and brands. Being able to send the right message to each consumer via their preferred channel at the right time, requires investment.

CONCLUSIONS

So what are Ewe seeing of these innovations? We are starting to test HTML5 in some campaigns, although with a firm eye on the fallback, so we don’t alienate the 30% plus customers who can’t view it. Interactive elements, like HTML5, are now been considered in campaign concepts driving some of these elements into campaign delivery.

Finally, Omni-Channel, a favourite mantra of mine and one I’ve personally pushed for many years, we must recognise the consumer is continually changing, driven today by the mass adoption of mobiles, with some 70% plus of all emails opened on one! Ewe puts the customer at the heart of its strategies ensuring that we deliver brilliant customer experiences that drives engagement and ultimately a greater ROI.

Email isn't going to die or be replaced by some fantastic new deliver channel, although I believe that GDPR will impact and ultimately change the way in which organisations use email, many of our clients are beginning to factor this into their contact stratagies. One significant shift in the future will be the emergence of artifical intelligence and machine learning, and we saw some of these glimpses in the recent Adobe Summit, meaning more meaningful connections with customers delivering more relevant messaging.

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